Greater Greater Washington

Route 7 needs transit to get people to Tysons

In Fairfax County, some residents are worried about squandering a real opportunity to reduce traffic into Tysons. State officials want to expand Route 7 between Reston Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road, but can't consider transit because of the county's comprehensive plan.


Image from VDOT.

The Virginia Department of Transportation would like to widen Route 7 from 4 car lanes to 6 in a location literally at the western entry to the county's new downtown. 8 months ago, in a bold and uncustomary move, VDOT formed a project advisory group, including residents such as myself.

Since then, agency staff and consultants have presented lots of information about crashes, engineering issues and land use along the six-mile stretch. But having seen the details, we community members have concluded that the big picture needs to change.

It didn't take long to realize that this project is just one piece of a major corridor connecting burgeoning Loudoun county (and beyond) with Fairfax County's biggest jobs magnet. For that reason, no one can afford transportation business as usual.

To simply add more car lanes will only make it easier for traffic to inundate the heart of Tysons. We need a new paradigm to provide more options. That's why we'd like the entire length of Route 7 from Loudoun to Fairfax to offer high-quality mass transit. I'd favor something like Portland's MAX light rail.

But there's a roadblock. The current Fairfax County comprehensive plan doesn't allow for enhancing transit on Route 7. So, with comment time running out on this phase of the project, there's only one thing to do: tell VDOT to work with Fairfax County to change its comp plan so Route 7 is designated an "Enhanced Public Transportation Corridor," just as it is on the east side of Tysons.

Only by doing that can VDOT begin to consider transit options along the route. Ideally, the 2 new lanes should be dedicated from the outset to bus and HOV-3. They should connect to a system of commuter park-and-rides in church and retail parking lots, as well as on public land such as behind the new fire station at Beulah Road.

Time is of the essence. This summer, VDOT breaks ground on an adjacent Route 7 project at Georgetown Pike. In this case, they are widening the road from 4 car lanes to 6 for just one mile, but it will cost $37 million and have no provision for transit. We want to make sure the Reston Avenue project and the remainder of the corridor doesn't suffer the same costly, short-sighted fate.

Send comments on the Reston Avenue project by this Saturday to meeting_comments@vdot.virginia.gov using "Route 7 Widening project" in the subject line.

Jenifer Joy Madden is an independent journalist and founder of DurableHuman.com. Vice chair of the Fairfax County Transportation Advisory Commission, she got her start in transportation planning by organizing a multi-purpose trail system where she lives in northern Vienna. 

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Is there really enough density along the route to justify substantial bus service? Parallel to the Silver Line?

My impression is that the whole project was something that was never really beneficial to the Tysons redevelopment, and not something the county really wanted - but the residents in Great Falls wanted less traffic taking Great Falls Rd, so pushed for this widening, the county Board buckled, and the transit idea was tossed in as greenwashing more or less.

This is I think too ped unfriendly and low dense for meaningful walk to bus usage - so it makes sense to focus on park and ride - Im not sure even that makes much sense. So wisely the idea of not a transit lane, but an HOV3 lane has been proposed. Not sure if even that will work.

I look forward to a bit more discussion here before I add my voice.

I would like to know what making it an enhanced transit corridor really means in terms of prioritizing vs other parts of the county where transit makes much more sense.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 6, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

Good idea. US-50 needs transit as well. Especially around South Riding.

by Jasper on Dec 6, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

I grew up at Georgetown & Route 7, went to middle school in Tyson's and went to Langley High, and I just want to say, thank you so much!

There's enough room in the median along most of this portion of Route 7 to run light rail or a dedicated bus lane the whole length, and the knock-on effects would be huge!

Georgetown Pike would be less desirable as a commuting option for Marylanders (OF ALL RACES) coming to Loudoun Coutny and the Route 28 corridor, and my long-awaited dream of a streetcar down the middle of Reston Parkway and Baron Cameron would be a little bit closer.

Also, how in the world are they going to deal with the intersection of Route 7 and Baron Cameron? You need an overpass as it is - with 6 lanes this intersection will be insane coming East without some way to get cars off the road.

Oh, also, even with 6 lanes Route 7 will be over capacity.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

A. This surely doesn't jibe with the Tysons comp plan. There should be some sort of mechanism for revising one plan or the other.

B. Reading AWITC's response got me thinking as well about how route 7 functions. The best thing for 7 in Tysons is to expand the street grid so that not everything is funneled onto 7 or 123. 7 then more or less skips Reston by going well north of any of the major nodes in reston and then is pretty standard sprawl from Dranesville until Leesburg (though more exits are being added and making it into a true expressway). At that point I don't know what would make the most sense except for some sort of bus priority.

Fairfax may be better off looking at how to simply connect Tysons better to Vienna and the City of Fairfax along 123 or Gallows road.

by drumz on Dec 6, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

Why are we proposing an HOV lane as opposed to bike and/or ped lanes? If you want complete transit, it needs to include bikes at the very least.

by Petrus on Dec 6, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport

Don't worry, Petrus. Multi-use (bike) lanes on both sides of the highway are already included in the Reston Ave and GT Pike projects.

by J J Madden on Dec 6, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

Don't worry MJB, those of us in Maryland want nothing more than to get in and out of Virginia, Fairfax and Loudoun counties especially, as quickly as possible. Maybe if VA had actually been doing planning rather than promoting development and offering corporate give-aways over the last 20 years some of your issues would not be so desperate.

by Gull on Dec 6, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

@Gull wasn't supposed to be a negative thing, it's just the facts, but since you wanna be a clown, read up:

http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/resources/NorthernVirginia/nova-amlegionbridge.pdf

That's from 2004, but it's still relevant today.

Maybe VA sucks at planning, but you all still work here, so there's gotta be something good about NOVA.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

Charge a $3.00 peak-only toll near the 193/7 intersection to force Loudoun traffic bound for Tysons to use the 28/DTR or 28/Metro. Save the money for updating 7 to pay down future toll increases on the DTR.

by jcp on Dec 6, 2012 4:17 pm • linkreport

"That's why we'd like the entire length of Route 7 from Loudoun to Fairfax to offer high-quality mass transit. I'd favor something like Portland's MAX light rail. "

see this just annoys me. Look at Portland. Look at great falls/north reston,etc. Do they look at all similar to you? This is a low density area (and no proposal to change the zoning) AND its close to the silver line. Meanwhile we might really be able to use light rail SE from Tysons to Falls church, south on gallows, across to connecto the purple line - and we need an orange line extension, and something in the rte 1 corridor south of Alex.

There is NOT going to be light rail here. Nor should there be.

At most you will get an HOV3 lane with a few once a half hour(rush hour only) express buses (and those cannibalizing the Silver Line mostly. Thats not really high quality transit. Does that justify the corridor designation? I dont know. Cause I dont know what the designation means.

Convince me. You haven't yet.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 6, 2012 4:24 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Nah nah the point isn't build transit to serve Great Falls and Reston, it's to serve people going between Loudoun and Tysons.

Right now, there's only one way to go directly from Sterling to Tysons, and that's Route 7.

A lot of people from Ashburn and Leesburg also use route 7 cause they can't afford to pay the tolls on the Greenway/267.

Also, there's a lot of people in North Reston that would use a park and ride facility at either Reston Paryway/7, Baron Cameron/7, or maybe even Beulah/7, if only to not have to deal with driving in and out of Tysons Proper. Think of it like Driving to the Metro to get to downtown DC, vs driving all the way to DC.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

the folks from loudoun will either be driving (in which case the transit isnt really relevant) or they will be taking the silver line. the folks from north reston might take buses instead of driiving - thats where I can see SOME demand for transit - light express bus service essentially. Not "high quality transit" And the people who use that MIGHT be people who would otherwise drive to the Silver Line.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 6, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

@MJB, you were the one who started it with "Marylanders (OF ALL RACES)" There is little positive that can be taken from that, regardless of how it was implied, and how it was received. BTW thanks for the study link, very interesting.

I personally don't work and never would work in NOVA, but as you point out, there are a lot of MD commuters who work there (and a lot of NOVA commuters who work in MD, some of my coworkers included). I'd have to cede that VA has done a better job of attracting businesses, but it's been my experience that better planning often means more regulations, which equals more time and money getting approval, very dirty words to a business!

by Gull on Dec 6, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

@Gull

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

As was demonstrated by the parking summit post from yesterday, unless you're super-duper explicit about it, there's a lot of folks that will automatically assume that talking about commuting Marylanders is a dogwhistle for PGC, aka black people:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/16985/at-summit-people-ask-for-free-parking-for-themselves/

So since HogWash called me a racist for complaining about Marylanders, I half-jokingly put that disclaimer in my post above.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

The point is that as of right now, there's only one way to get from Sterling and other points West on Route 7 to Tysons, and that's driving, but if people had the option to take a limited-service light rail or something of that nature that only had like 1 stop between Dranesville and Tysons, I'd be willing to bet my lifetime's salary that it'd be a tremendous hit.

The silver Line will reduce Route 7 traffic somewhat, but remember that the Silver Line runs too far South in Loudoun to be of much use to somebody coming from anywhere in the vicinity of Route 7, such as Countryside, Cascades, and even big chunks of Northern Ashburn and Leesburg.

by MJB on Dec 6, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

The only reason I could see light rail on 7 west of Tysons as a good idea is that it would mean fewer car lanes. The big problem with adding car lanes is that all it will do is shift traffic from the DTR (because of the tolls) to 7. It will also have the effect of dumping more cars into Tysons where there isn't sufficient road capacity to receive them.

Meanwhile we might really be able to use light rail SE from Tysons to Falls church

This is a much better idea for transit on 7. Run it SE from Tysons all the way to Old Town (I disagree with AWITC on turning it onto Gallows after FC). That will connect what is arguably the most important commercial corridor in the state of VA -- Tysons, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Baileys, Old Town Alexandria.

The point is that as of right now, there's only one way to get from Sterling and other points West on Route 7 to Tysons, and that's driving

Doesn't the Loudoun-Tysons express bus serve those places?

by Falls Church on Dec 6, 2012 5:11 pm • linkreport

Falls church

I did not mean the Rte7/falls church lane should turn to Gallows - I see Gallows as a route for another transitway (maybe someday rail)that would run Tysons-Mosaic-Inova in addition to Rte7-FallsChurch-Seven Corners-Baileys.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 6, 2012 5:16 pm • linkreport

Considering the fact that Dulles Toll Road users who are being soaked for 52% of Silver Line costs will be bailing onto Route 7 and other secondary roads to avoid ever-increasing tolls, it's realistic for VDOT to plan for expanding Route 7 to accommodate the additional traffic.

They should be congratulated.

by ceefer66 on Dec 6, 2012 8:31 pm • linkreport

Fairfax County's DOT has two limited-stop bus routes in the FCDOT Transit Development Plan, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/dullesmetro/ . There also seems to be a plan to use Wolf Trap's large parking lot and special on ramps at the Dulles Toll Road as a commuter lot during the week with bus service to Spring Hill/Tysons West Metro.

The TDP link is at the bottom under "Dulles Corridor Information." See Chapter 7, pages 52-54.

by Transport. on Dec 7, 2012 12:16 am • linkreport

Route 7 needs to be widened from Tysons west to Reston in order to permit all of the planned density increases, according to the June 2010 revisions to the Comp Plan. The widening also has the full support of all elected officials (both Democrats and Republicans) in Fairfax County, except for Supervisor Hudgins. All community and business groups are also on record supporting widening Route 7 to six lanes.

VDOT, with input from a citizen stakeholder group, is planning the expansion now. This effort is looking at transit options as part of the widening project. Transit will most likely consist of express bus service in HOT/HOV lanes. Densities in Loudoun, Reston, Great Falls and McLean would not support any rail service. Also, there would likely be concern among residents and stakeholder groups any rail would be matched with requests for more density along Route 7. The Supervisors and VDOT/DRPT are not likely to go against the views of residents, especially after the Supervisors promised the addition of density to Tysons would protect the suburban and semi-rural characters of nearby communities.

by TMT on Dec 7, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

Route 7 needs to be widened from Tysons west to Reston in order to permit all of the planned density increases

Putting aside the question of whether new capacity should be car lanes or transit...Why the emphasis on expanding capacity on 7 west of Tysons when there is far more density and need to expand capacity on 7 east of Tysons? Won't 7 East of Tysons be as much (if not more) affected by planned density increases as 7 West of Tysons?

Also, there would likely be concern among residents and stakeholder groups any rail would be matched with requests for more density along Route 7.

That's the beauty of adding rail on 7 East of Tysons. There would be stakeholder support for adding density on that portion of 7 (and I think it's already in the master plan for places like 7 Corners), so it would be a much higher returning project than adding capacity west of 7. Furthermore, light rail on 7 East of Tysons could connect to the Columbia Pike streetcar at Baileys and would connect Tysons to VRE/Amtrak at the King Street station.

by Falls Church on Dec 7, 2012 11:31 am • linkreport

"That will connect what is arguably the most important commercial corridor in the state of VA -- Tysons, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Baileys, Old Town Alexandria."

God, I hope that isn't true.

by charlie on Dec 7, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

I can see a streetcar making sense in the corridor at some point but that's probably like a 30 year horizon or more. If zoning/planning is conducive I can see a BRT light type of situation which would foster additional density but rail is really expensive you and it doesnt seem like that area caters to the right uses at the moment.

by Alan B on Dec 7, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

Much of what is driving the widening of Route 7 west from Tysons is the fact Route 7 is six lanes through much of Loudoun County east of Lees-burg and extending partially into Fairfax County, where it becomes four lanes. It makes no sense to reduce the roads capacity. Also very important is the desire of the Great Falls community to reduce the incentive for drivers to bail out from 7 and travel down Georgetown Pike. A wider Route 7, especially with more express bus service, is conducive to the GF goal.

Traffic studies show that a large volume of Tysons workers will continue to live west of Tysons, such that getting workers out of Tysons at night is critical. Hopefully, many will take the Silver Line and express buses, but the County continues to believe road capacity needs to be added to the DTR and Route 7, heading west.

The Comp Plan also contemplates widening Route 7 east of Tysons from four to six lanes between I-495 and the City of Falls Church between 2020 and 2030. (Route 7 is also widened within Tysons.) Route 7 from the City of Falls Church east is not addressed in the Tysons Plan.

Light rail would probably make much more sense east of Tysons than west of Tysons. But that would likely occur much closer to 2050 than today from what I've observed. The landowners are more interested in seeing the circulator system developed within Tysons than in improvements east of the City of Falls Church. And, of course, future growth at Baileys and Seven Corners needs to be considered. Fairfax County policy considers TOD as rail only. The staff seems supportive of that decision, at least so far.

by TMT on Dec 7, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

Route 7 should remain 4 lanes. Route 7 is 6 lanes in Loundoun because no one is using the Dulles Greenway due to high tolls.

The $300 million could be used to pay down the toll on the DTR or buy the Dulles Greenway.

In Alexandria, Route 7 is 2 lanes and doing fine.

Loundoun County residents should use the DTR or Metro to get to Tysons.

by jcp on Dec 7, 2012 1:40 pm • linkreport

"That will connect what is arguably the most important commercial corridor in the state of VA -- Tysons, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Baileys, Old Town Alexandria."

God, I hope that isn't true.

That corridor has the most square feet of commercial space. So, based on that measure of importance, it's true. Tysons alone has considerably more commercial space than the entire Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

by Falls Church on Dec 7, 2012 1:45 pm • linkreport

Route 7 should remain 4 lanes. Route 7 is 6 lanes in Loundoun because no one is using the Dulles Greenway due to high tolls.
-------

Look for the same thing to happen as Fairfax County (Reston and Herndon) commuters bail out from the Toll Road due to high - and increasing - tolls. Route 7 between 264 and 7100 to be widened to 6 or even 8 lanes.

by ceefer66 on Dec 7, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

Route 7 between 264 and 7100 will need to be widened to 6 or even 8 lanes to accommodate all the traffic.

by ceefer66 on Dec 7, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

As TMT has made clear in the past, the widening was advocated for reasons independent of growth at Tysons. If it were required for Tysons growth, it would make sense to wait and see how much growth actually takes place at Tysons.

There are of course urgent needs in other parts of the county, but as TMT has stated, the Board has agreed to prioritize this project.

Given that, of course its a good idea to have express bus service, and I think giving some lanes to HOV3 is probably a good thing.

I still am not clear what designating it as transit corridor means, and if that adds to its priority over other corridors.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 7, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport

I had to make a few trips on Rt 7 when buying furniture a couple months ago. Even with Metro, it sucks as a pedestrian ebnviroment (Rockville Pike, eg, is a dream by comparison) and the transit is fragmented, in rms of getting around or even into the area outside of Tyson's Corner Center. The area needs some redundancy with he Silver Line to help people get to jobs in the area and it would help shoppers w/o crs like me who dread any trip into he area regardless of whether it involves car or transit. Ideally, a transition could include bus raid transit or something more elaborate like a trolley, as well as a complete rethinking of e sidewalks, which appear and disappear. These steps would help accelerate he Silver Line's impact on redevelopment of the area.

by Rich on Dec 8, 2012 12:10 am • linkreport

Fairfax County sees Tysons as a major producer of tax revenues that have consistently benefited the rest of the county. Accordingly, it believes it is necessary to divert some money generated from other parts of the county as well (the C&I tax for a number of years) to build roads and improve transit in the Tysons area and connecting to Tysons.

From what I have observed, Fairfax County and VDOT/DRPT will include transit improvements with with widening of Route 7. VDOT has planning money and is also meeting every two months with stakeholders from nearby communities and the Tysons landowners. I've not heard anyone suggest any form of rail. Express bus service and some park and ride lots (especially at Baron Cameron Road) is contemplated to the best of my knowledge.

by TMT on Dec 8, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

This project will encourage the movement of SOV's into Tysons - whether that will be good for Tysons, encourage its transformation, or support its tax revenues is open to debate. AFAICT its main support comes from residential areas along the Rte 7 corridor - though naturally neither the county nor the developers care to alienate those areas.

At least an HOV lane is one less SOV lane in each direction. It seems unlikely to me that this will become a significant transit corridor, but I don't know all the commuting patterns from the northeastern corner of Loudoun County.

Many of the alternative investments which this will take priority over are either direct transit routes to Tysons, or, as in the case of the Annandale complete streets project, improvements to areas that, when built out, will be important sources of housing for Tysons workers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 8, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

The landowners will have tremendous pressure to reduce SOV trips based on the requirements of Table 5 in the Comp Plan. The table shows the percentage reductions from ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) Peak Hour rates. The Tysons Partnership is considering the establishment of a single entity to coordinate and manage trip reduction efforts for all landowners. This sounds like a better, more efficient approach than having each landowner manage its own process. The goals are extremely aggressive, but critical to allowing Tysons to grow into an urban center.

by TMT on Dec 8, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

TDM is great. A coordingate TDM sounds great.

Building MORE SOV lanes into Tysons on Rte 7 probably will not make meeting the TDM goals easier. Making HOV lanes part of the project will make it less bad, for sure.

If the goal is to support the TDM, maintain funding for the needed Tysons projects, and yet to fund needed improvements elsewhere in the County, this project looks like a bad idea to me.

but power is power, and when certain parts of the county talk, the board listens. The HOV lanes make the best of a bad deal.

I await someone explaining how making this corridor a designated transit corridor will impact transit projects elsewhere.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 8, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport

The only reason I can think of why money is being invested in transpo improvements on 7 west of tysons vs. east of tysons is that there are a lot of rich and powerful people living on 7 west. The higher returning investment is 7 east of tysons and I haven't seen anyone make the business case for 7 west. In fact, what TMT said was that tge residents of 7 west specifically oppose density increases that would provide a return on investment. What a waste.

by Falls Church on Dec 8, 2012 4:56 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

The Comp Plan was adopted after considerable traffic analysis that showed many Tysons workers would continue to live west of Tysons. That, of course, necessitates considerable road and transit improvements in that direction. If the bulk of workers were expected to live east, I think the Plan would have proposed more improvements in that direction.

Also, with respect to density outside Tysons, keep in mind the Board of Supervisors included a primary goal of protecting other nearby neighborhoods from more development as a goal for the re-planning effort for Tysons. It is a fundamental policy of Fairfax County to concentrate any urban development in only a few locations, especially Tysons, while protecting the suburban and, in parts, semi-rural nature of the County's neighborhoods. A change in policy that attempted to expand density would be met with extremely hostile push-back from much of the county. Sharon Bulova has stated publicly on many occasions protecting the suburban areas of Fairfax is critical. She is not alone. Note also that Supervisors specifically rejected the request of some landowners and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce to expand density in Tysons beyond one quarter mile of the four new rail stations. If the Supervisors refused that request, largely based on community group opposition, why would they even consider expanding density outside Tysons (except for the other limited areas designed for some urban density)?

In short, there is a new social contract between Fairfax County and its residents that allow intense urban development at Tysons (and lesser amounts in some other areas) in exchange for preventing significant increases in density elsewhere. I don't foresee that contract being breached by the Supervisors.

by TMT on Dec 9, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

There are several areas designated for increased density outside Tyson's in FFC county - these include part of Merrifield, Seven Corners, and Baileys Crossroads. The City of Falls Church has its own goals for development. These currently designated targets for growth are located along the lines of potential transportation improvements SE along rte 7 and S on Gallows. Even if there are no additional new areas targeted for density, FC's point that rte 7 east is a more logical corridor for transit than rte 7 west, where NO areas are targeted for densification, stands.

And while its true most workers will live west of Tysons, they will mostly live either in the SilverLine/DTR corridor, or SW in the 123 corridor. The Rte 7 west corridor is relatively lightly populated. It is however very wealthy and politically influential.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

FYI - The current (2006) FC Transportation Plan Map has this note in its key about the "Enhanced Public Transportation Corridor" designation: "Enhanced Public Transportation Corridor-Major public transportation facility (such as Metrorail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and high occupancy vehicle lanes) will be provided in this corridor based upon the results of a comprehensive alternatives analysis. Final location of
component facilities (e.g. rail stations, commuter parking lots) are subject to completion of the area plans or appropriate studies." We have to keep in mind that the Fairfax BOS aren't the only people involved in decision-making about 7. Although it is true that density is light in FC on the west, there are many, many people living just beyond its border many of whom will want to drive straight to Tysons. Also - the main voices calling for transit on 7 live in the low density neighborhoods alleged to be pushing back.

by J J Madden on Dec 9, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

@ JJ Madden

"Although it is true that density is light in FC on the west, there are many, many people living just beyond its border many of whom will want to drive straight to Tysons." I wholeheartedly agree. That was one of the drivers of Fairfax County's support for widening Route 7. The County reacted, in part, due to the many complaints about cut-through traffic in Great Falls, Reston, McLean and Vienna. Keeping as many cars from Loudoun and points west on Route 7 and the DTR is an important goal of the County.

"We have to keep in mind that the Fairfax BOS aren't the only people involved in decision-making about 7." True, in part. Despite the long-standing plan for widening Route 7, the project was taken off VDOT's list of projects for several years because the Fairfax County BoS voted 9-1 to oppose it. The vote came in early 2008. Supervisor Foust worked hard with his colleagues, VDOT, other elected officials and business & community groups to turn around the position of the BoS. It later voted 9-1 to support the widening. VDOT put the project back on the list of ongoing projects. Senator Howell and Delegate Comstock were able to obtain planning money for Route 7. My point is VDOT is not likely to go one way or another on Route 7 without the basic concurrence of the Fairfax County BoS, which, in turn, is going to sync its views with those of the nearby community and business organizations. IMO, Route 7 is a good example of how state and local government can work effectively with community and business organizations.

by TMT on Dec 9, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

JJ

That low density areas want transit does not mean its justified. I believe that is Falls Church's point. There are other places in the County where proposed transit would enable community redevelopment and densification, providing significant payback. There tend to be the areas that have more decay, and a plan for redevelopment, and acceptance of higher density.

This will take SOVs away from DTR - which is a bad thing,esp as DTR tolls are supposed to pay for the silver line. Clearly taking traffic away from Great Falls road is the benefit motivating many supporters. That is not a bad thing, but I remain unconvinced it is a higher priority than say rebuilding the congested, unsafe, development deterring Annandale street network.

But yes, clout can turn around a 9-1 vote.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

You seem to be suggesting that it's wrong for people in the nothern part of the county to advocate for what they believe is in their best interests. Why can't they advocate for what they want?

The goal for transit west of Tysons is, obviously, to bring workers in and out of Tysons and to decrease SOV and protect neighborhoods from cut-through traffic. What is wrong with that?

The County has said there will be density in selected locations beyond Tysons, but not everywhere and at much lower levels than Tysons. That's the new social contract. There are no plans to make Baileys Crossroads, Annandale or Springfield, for example, to look anything like Tysons. Moreover, Fairfax County TOD policy is limited to rail locations. The staff has rejected a number of proposals to extend it to bus service.

by TMT on Dec 9, 2012 9:56 pm • linkreport

It's not wrong for people to advocate for things they want but it's another to expect people to naturally agree with them especially if it comes at the expense of other projects.

In a perfect world I'd expect all parts of the county to have sufficient transit but instead we have to balance out projects and consider what they can provide and return. In that light I don't think it should be a higher priority than connecting communities that others have mentioned.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2012 11:33 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz

I fully understand and respect your argument. But it misses the context of what was intended for the re-planning of Tysons. The County made a decision back in the 1990s to treat Tysons differently from the rest of the county, making it an urban center and to take advantage of the additional tax revenues it could generate. This was reenforced by the 2010 Plan amendments. So, to a large extent, Tysons went to the head of the line. For example, the County is going to use all of the C & I tax revenues for a number of years to help fund road and transit projects in and around Tysons.

The return expected is higher tax revenues and a workable transit-oriented community. That has been judged as more important than supporting development in some other areas of the county. Should this policy be immune from criticism? Of course not. But, at the same time, I don't think it makes much sense to ignore the conscious decisions of the County. Over the next 40 years, the Tysons Plan will be adopted. Tysons is getting more favorable treatment than some other parts of the county because the County decided it was the best policy. Like it or not, this is where things are and will be.

by TMT on Dec 10, 2012 8:01 am • linkreport

"You seem to be suggesting that it's wrong for people in the nothern part of the county to advocate for what they believe is in their best interests. Why can't they advocate for what they want?"

There is nothing wrong in them advocating for it. There may be something wrong in the Board listening to them on this issue, and weighing their needs ahead of the needs of other parts of the county. People from other parts of the County can also make their cas.

That Annandale and Baileys are not targeted for the density of Tysons in neither here nor there. The investment on rte 7 we are discussing is going to run FROM places like Great Falls and North Reston TO Tysons. Similarly a rte 7 SE transit line would run FROM Baileys to Tysons. The comparison is Baileys vs Great Falls and North Reston. Clearly the former is an area with greater potential for TOD than the latter.

Is it good to get more folks from Great Falls, North Reston, and northeast LoCo on to transit? Yes. I question how many will be brought onto transit by a park and ride express bus service. It would be interesting to compare that to the number for a Rte 7 SE transit line. And of course redevelopment at Baileys would mean more people living in high density, walkable, which would mean not only fewer commute trips to Tysons, but fewer auto trips for those people generally.

This is not to say that an HOV3 lane (with some transit greenwashing) will never be a good idea on rte 7. its just not clear that its urgent now - when there are deferred needs elsewhere in the County, when that area is getting a new rail line that we dont want to cannibalize, when that rail line will be paid for in part by tolls on the DTR that we do not want to cannibalize, and when Tysons redevelopment is still in its early stages.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

"The County made a decision back in the 1990s to treat Tysons differently from the rest of the county, making it an urban center and to take advantage of the additional tax revenues it could generate. This was reenforced by the 2010 Plan amendments. So, to a large extent, Tysons went to the head of the line. For example, the County is going to use all of the C & I tax revenues for a number of years to help fund road and transit projects in and around Tysons"

but this project, as we have discussed is NOT contingent on new development in Tysons. Its something Great Falls wants to address their existing concerns with cut through traffic. The Tysons developers did not originally want this - this was a political win for Great Falls residents, with clout, and a strong ability to advocate for their case. Its not wrong to advocate for your case, but lets not be confused about what the board is doing here.

Whats even more troubling is that this will be counted in future by some as a cost of Tysons redevelopment, and that it will be counted toward "we spend so much on transit"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2012 9:10 am • linkreport

@TMT

I fully respect the desire of the folks living along 7 west of Tysons to want to retain their semi-rural character. However, they are mistaken if they believe that expanding the capacity of 7 (whether through added car lanes or transit) will work in favor of retaining their semi-rural character. Large(r) busy(ier) highways don't seem congruent with a semi-rural character.

While Seven Corners and Baileys will never be at the density of Tysons, there is a good plan in place to increase development in those places. Furthermore, many people do commute to Tysons from the East, so building transit capacity on 7 East would have the double benefit of expanding commuting capacity to Tysons and bringing additional development to SC/Baileys/Falls Church. The transit capacity doesn't have to be rail. It could be a BRT system. And Fairfax's TOD policy doesn't need to be invoked. There is already a plan in place to increase development in those areas and expanded transit would help jumpstart that process.

It's not so much that I oppose expanding car lanes on 7 West of Tysons (although I'm skeptical of how this will preserve their semi-rural character) but rather I oppose the lack of investment on 7 East of Tysons. If we could do both, that would be fine. If we can only do one, then it seems like 7 East is the more logical investment since it has a double benefit -- expanded commuting capacity and increased development.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

Both Falls Church and Walker said what I would have.

by drumz on Dec 10, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

It's my recollection that the Fairfax County transit plan does include transit improvements on Route 7 east of Tysons. The County will probably extend transit there at some time in the future. But Tysons is a higher priority, according to the Board of Supervisors. They have said publicly transportation improvements in and around Tysons are critical for its success and the success of Tysons is critical for the county. Certainly, some residents disagree. I respect the disagreement on this blog.

It's also important to remember that the Tysons Plan was approved after a grand compromise was reached among all the stakeholders. The community groups insisted that development at Tysons be tied to specific transportation improvements. The other stakeholders and the county agreed. This includes the widening of Route 7 west of Tysons that must occur between 2013 and 2020 unless further development is delayed. (While there are clearly reasons for the widening of Route 7 beyond the needs of Tysons, the widening is in the Comp Plan.) Delay could happen due to a slow economy. If the development slows, so too will the infrastructure construction, according to the County and VDOT.

My question is then: Would you rather have the deal that enabled the Tysons Plan to be adopted or not? The Plan includes the concessions made to citizens groups. The Supervisors would regard the Tysons Plan as a major accomplishment for the county. I don't believe they would see the concessions made as anything but in the public interest.

I should clarify what I understand to be the position of the Great Falls Citizens Association. The Association wants the widening of Route 7 to avoid more traffic on Georgetown Pike and other streets. The Association also wants to preserve the semi-rural character of the area by opposing the extension of sewer and water, as well as plans to add any density. If my comments suggested widening of Route 7 was related to the density issue, I apologize.

by TMT on Dec 10, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

"It's my recollection that the Fairfax County transit plan does include transit improvements on Route 7 east of Tysons. The County will probably extend transit there at some time in the future. But Tysons is a higher priority, according to the Board of Supervisors. They have said publicly transportation improvements in and around Tysons are critical for its success and the success of Tysons is critical for the county. Certainly, some residents disagree. I respect the disagreement on this blog. "

sigh. Once again, we are talking about a transit line FROM Tysons, to and through city of Falls Church, and then down to Seven Corners and Baileys, conneting with PikeRail at baileys (though it would not necessarily be rail itself). Thats just as much "in and around Tysons" as the widening of Rte 7 west.

"It's also important to remember that the Tysons Plan was approved after a grand compromise was reached among all the stakeholders. The community groups insisted that development at Tysons be tied to specific transportation improvements. The other stakeholders and the county agreed."

To improvements required by the redevelopment of Tysons.

"This includes the widening of Route 7 west of Tysons that must occur between 2013 and 2020 unless further development is delayed. (While there are clearly reasons for the widening of Route 7 beyond the needs of Tysons, the widening is in the Comp Plan.)"

its there BECAUSE of the political pressure AFAICT, not because tysons developers or county planners thought it necessary.

" Delay could happen due to a slow economy. If the development slows, so too will the infrastructure construction, according to the County and VDOT."

Delay on this widening? Okay, thats new - I got the impression from your earlier posts over the months that it would proceed apace regardless of the pace of development. I would also suggest that in addition to the pace of development, the ridership on the Silver line, and modal share into Tysons are relevant.

"My question is then: Would you rather have the deal that enabled the Tysons Plan to be adopted or not? The Plan includes the concessions made to citizens groups. The Supervisors would regard the Tysons Plan as a major accomplishment for the county. I don't believe they would see the concessions made as anything but in the public interest."

I would like the County to delay the decision on prioritizing rte 7 over other essential improvements in the County until they have a clearer picture not only of the pace of development at Tysons, but post silver line shifts in modal share at Tysons. Its not clear to me that what the County has committed to precludes that - and if it does, its not clear to me that the County could not have negotiated a better deal.

what is clear to me is that this project has been advanced to deal the concerns of communities along Rte 7 with existing cut through traffic - and I will continue to contest the implication that it is simply something required by the changes at Tysons. Such connection as there is is a political connection.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

I understand and appreciate your views on Route 7. You are not likely alone. But I think the landowners and FC DOT would hold the widening is necessary for Tysons to grow. And I know the community groups would insist the widening occur for the reasons we've discussed, including the critical need to move PM traffic out from Tysons.

Revising the Comp Plan is a legislative decision. It is, therefore, political in nature. Interested parties participated in the process so that their interests and concerns would be addressed in the final plan. The BoS was looking for the Planning Commission to forge some sort of political concensus because the Supervisors realized the Task Force had failed to do that. The Planning Commission did develop a compromise plan that generally found concensus support. The County brokered a deal among the stakeholders more than it negotiated for a particular result. The interests of the landowners, big employers, and participating community groups (through the umbrella GTCC) were all addressed. The Planning Commission made a proposal and received comments, generally favorable. The compromise was not fully consistent with the views of the county staff, but it quickly got in line to implement it. Was it political? Of course. But shouldn't interested parties participate in the process to ensure their concerns are addressed?

Delay. FC DOT has prepared a very complex spreadsheet that lays out each road and transit project and ties them to specific development levels. If the economy proceeds at a normal pace, the projects would be constructed as set forth. If a slow economy delays construction of some buildings in Tysons (say for two years), some of the road and transit projects would likely be delayed for a year or so. If we were to assume the current economic difficulties delay some development, Route 7 might not be be completed for an extra year or so. But short of a change in opinion from the key stakeholders, Route 7 will be widened.

by TMT on Dec 10, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

@TMT
Well, it shouldn't be widened as it is now list in the comp plan. Only if it is designated as an "Enhanced Public Transporation Corridor" is it possible even to consider a more robust transit option. Not doing so also leaves open the possibility that a current decision on any one project in the corridor could preclude that option from being played out in the future.

by J J Madden on Dec 11, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

@ J J Madden

I hear you. However, if VDOT or Fairfax County tried to stop the Route 7 widening project, there would be a political backlash from the Tysons landowners, the nearby neighborhoods, community associations and elected officials. Getting the agreement to widen Route 7 was key to a lot of support for the final Comp Plan amendments even though the widening also addresses a number of other goals. Putting it in the Comp Plan increased the likelihood it would stay on VDOT's list. It's a done deal.

I do, however, appreciate your concern about doing something now that might preclude doing something later. That's one of the reasons the McLean Citizens Association just wrote a letter to VDOT supporting the addition of transit to the Route 7 planning process (west of Tysons).

As I recall, the Sierra Club has concerns about the push to have Maryland build Express Lanes that connect with Virginia's at the American Legion Bridge as they might preclude a rail connection. In all candor, the construction of the Express Lanes north of Tysons probably killed that at least for the foreseeable future. But I understand the concern.

In Fairfax County, it is very clear community organizations have much more clout on land use matters than do other interest groups, such as the Coalition for Smart Growth, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club. Fairfax County elected officials are quite attune to the former.

by TMT on Dec 11, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

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